Handmade Wardrobe / Inspiration

The First Draft of Olive

The First Draft of Olive

It’s always really fun to me to look back and see how a pattern has evolved throughout the development process. Today I thought I would share with you the first draft of the Olive sewing pattern! I really hope you enjoy this dive into the little details that changed whilst we were testing this pattern.

Megan Nielsen Olive dress sewing pattern made in Navy poplin

The first sample of any design is a little bit like the first pancake. It’s perfectly useable, it’s fine, but it’s just not quite right yet. You wouldn’t really want to show it to anyone (I say as I post pictures on the internet haha). And that’s how I feel about this dress. It works, but there were lots of little details we decided to change after this sample that I think made the pattern much better.

Fabric wise there is nothing really interesting going on here. This dress was sewn from a very basic navy poplin that we keep in the studio for toiles. We also have a big stash of old sheets that I love using for test makes – that’s my hot tip if you’re looking for a cheap slightly more environmentally friendly option for making toiles of patterns!

Side view of the first olive dress sample

The first is pretty obvious when I stand side on – the sleeves are just not right. This pattern was based on a blouse I drafted almost 10 years ago which was finished with bias binding. That finish provided enough range of motion and comfort, but the second we added a sleeve band, bam, it didn’t fit right any more. It became obvious the sleeve opening was just too small and beyond creating discomfort it made it hard to take on and off and is creating some strain at the shoulder.

For the final pattern we reshaped the shoulder slope as well as lowering the undearm significantly and making the curve of the side seam more gradual and not as steep as in this first version. You can’t see in these photos but there are literally rips under my arms from the tension of taking it on and off. Yikes.

Megan Nielsen Olive dress development changes

The next ones may not be as obvious, unless you’re picky as heck like me haha. But my friends the volume in this skirt was just a bit… sad. There weren’t enough gathers and it was looking a bit pathetic to my eyes. We added another 50% to the gathers and I think it was totally worth the little bit of extra fabric it added.

Other things we changed in this version were the pockets and skirt length. We lengthened the skirt – I’m only 5’5″ and it was at the limit of where I would want to wear it. My thoughts on skirt length are that you can always make it shorter so it’s better to start long. The pockets were also changed to be anchored at the waistline. I love anchored pockets and will put them in as many garments as I can. The idea is essentially that your pocket is attached to the waistline as well as the sideseam so it stays in the front of the garment, nice and neatly and doesn’t flap around. It also helps with weight distribution if like me you put everything you own in your pockets!

The First Draft of Olive

The very last thing we changed after this sample was how we applied the bias neckline finish. I don’t know if it’s hard to see here, but this dress is sewn with a pointed facing finish. Which (ask Naomi, who slaved over this detail) is hard to achieve neatly. We made some many mockups of methods for sewing that point neatly so that all raw edges were enclosed and it was still easy to execute and in the end we decided a squared off end was much more achievable. And as often happens, the squared off facing is now one of my favorite details!

I hope you enjoyed this little post mortem of our first version of the Olive dress!

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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3 years ago

I love the details on this dress and enjoyed hearing about the design process.
I’ve added it to my wish list??